A/N: As some of my friends on here may or may not know, I'm on a slight Plankaren high as of late, soooooo this family thing came from it! Also helped with my writer's slump, YAY! DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for Karen's Baby, includes teenage Chip, and I know nothign about programming and I the best I could THANKS!
"GET OUT HERE!"
"JUST DO IT!"
Initially, very, very initially, Chip had believed that not joining his friends on a trip to the shore for summer break was a good idea. All the pros had shone out as clear in his mind as the decent grades on his report card. He would see his parents, Spot, go on a scheme with his father, go to the best electronics store in the sea, and get some much-deserved rest. College life had slapped Chip in the back of the head when he was already down, and summer was possibly the only thing that could save him.
Unfortunately, Chip didn't account for his parents being…well, his parents.
"Does dad always stay in there this long?" Chip asked after a while. He continued to tinker with his latest program, fixing a bug here and there in hopes he wouldn't have to ask his mother for help. The last time he got her involved in his computer, well, he couldn't show his friends what was supposed to be a portable version of their class schedule, since his mother turned it into a family photo album.
"Depends," Karen answered automatically. Her eyes remained fixated on a monitor as she clicked and typed away, ignoring the used-to-be cold milk on the side of her desk. She elbowed it out of the way, as if to say, "I'll have it later…but not now," and took a whopping sip of her coffee that would have burned anyone else's mouth. Chip smirked and took a bite of cereal. He was so going to throw this in her face when she lectured him about a proper diet.
Silence intruded the rusty home/restaurant, and just as Chip dared to enjoy it…
Someday he had to join the rock band at school…if only to find out if he had inherited his mother's lungs.
If he looked closely enough and ignored the bug in his programmer that bit at his mind every time he attempted to fix it, Chip could see steam from the coffee blowing past his mother's water-color blue hair that he had somehow inherited. It was the only thing keeping him (and his father) from calling her out on dying it.
Before Karen could holler for her slowpoke of a husband again, Plankton stormed out of the bedroom, monstrous goggles covering his eyepatch and one eye fixated on his wife. He yanked them off, let them rest awkwardly on his ebony hair, and glared at Karen. Chip had to stifle a smile at his mother, whose smirk, crossed arms, and sideways head-tilt could not have looked more disinterested in her husband's anger.
"Fine, I'm out here, now what is it?" The sheer notion that Karen could have something besides a new screensaver on her computer, an anniversary to remind him of, or an insult didn't even cross his mind, so Plankton merely fumed at his wife. After all, why mess with the well-oiled system?
No reaction glittered across Karen's smirk except for momentary distraction and pleasure at Spot, their oddly-colored dog, jumping at her heels and begging for a treat. She patted the dog's head before shining a know-it-all look, as Plankton would describe it, on her husband. "I just thought you might be interested to know that SpongeBob has a day off, so Krabs is cooking the patties and re-reading the formula…" Her delicately-manicured, cerulean fingertips tapped a few light keys on the keyboard as she ignored her husband's flushed-punch face, before announcing, "…right now."
Before she could fathom what was going on in the world (and even if she had a two-week notice, it still would have sent a shiver of shocked nerves down her spine), Plankton grabbed her by her shoulders, tugged her towards him, and placed a messy but well-intended kiss on her lips, leaving her normally calm and composed countenance flushed, broken, and rather rouge. Karen froze, as she often did when he did these sorts of things, as though waiting for him to be done so she could catch up with what had just happened.
Separating from his lighting-struck wife, Plankton grinned wider than she had seen him smile recently, and squeezed her shoulder. "Thanks honey, you're the best!" With an evil cackle as his goodbye, her husband stormed out of the Chum Bucket, leaving the beaten-up doors swinging and creaking in his wake.
Chip stared at the door for a moment before looking back at his mother, whose expression was only a fraction too blank for him to read. "Dad's pretty weird, isn't he?"
Shaking off her momentary lapse in clarity, Karen shivered slightly, blinked a few times, and turned back to the keyboard. "He certainly is."
You would think that, if you had swinging doors that a teenage boy had recently oiled, they wouldn't be able to slam. It's impossible, right? They swing! They can't shut properly unless locked, therefore, they can't make the traditional 'I'm angry as Neptune when Triton stayed out late' smashing sound.
If anyone could pull off that type of impossible, it was Plankton, and the boisterous sucker-punch of the door against the frame was the first thing to alert her to her husband's mood.
"How'd it go?" An insult lay just at the tip of Karen's tongue as she spun around the greet him, but she had learned too much about her husband in twenty-six years to tick him off at the wrong time. Solar flares roared in his eyes, his shoulders spiked like a cat, and he muttered the whole string of villain bad words, of which there are fifteen.
No response greeted her, and even Chip shot a look at his mother, almost a plea for some explanation. "Sheldon?" Karen titled her head as he stomped to the study/office/iron-work room, and yanked the door shut hard enough to send a quiver through the whole building.
Spot whimpered and whined at her legs, and Karen rubbed his head sympathetically. "Don't worry, I'll talk to him."
"Dad needs to get a grip," Chip said, unpausing his game and fixating his eyes on the screen.
Karen took a lengthy, strong gulp of her coffee. "Your father needs to get anger management classes."
Knocking lightly on the door, Karen called in, "Sheldon? Are you going to tell us what's wrong or just hide in there like a toddler who didn't get a cookie?" The quip was purely accidental and slipped off her tongue, but Karen had to enjoy the laugh she got out of Chip.
After a minute of silence passed, Karen shook her head at the door, picked Spot up, and pulled him on her lap as she sat down. "He'll come out in his own time. It might be in five years, but it will be on his own schedule."
By mid-morning, the computer-nerds of the family had given up on their respective projects, promising themselves to deal with it later on. Chip now stared at the compressed, black-and-white TV his father had dragged in one morning, watching reruns of a show he didn't even know, and not that he would ever tell his parents this, but it wasn't half bad. Chip seemed to enjoy it as well, that it, until he fell into a quiet, restful nap at Chip's feet.
"Watching I Love Lucy?" Karen asked, monotone and flat, as though he was watching the typical, violent shows she couldn't help but squirm at.
The channel flicked faster than Karen had ever seen. He picked up his computer, pulled it onto his lap like a teddy bear from his childhood, and started typing away. "No."
As it had before, and as they both found comfortable, silence swelled. Chip continued staring at the screen, eyes fixated and unwavering on the glittering computer. The only thing to do was sit down, rock the silence to sleep, and bombard Chip with questions when he was ready.
There was nothing wrong with wanting to know how her son's life was going. A high school junior, and she didn't know what his favorite color was anymore. Did he even have one? At a certain point, do boys just…not have a favorite color? What of his hobbies? Beyond hanging out with friends, watching TV, and playing video games, what did he enjoy? This summer was supposed to be about growing closer to her son before college snatched him up. He was growing up too fast.
"How's your program going?" Karen blurted. The words had blown out of her mouth faster than she could stop them, even as she clamped a hand up to her face.
A pause snapped, and Chip replied, some ticking uneasiness clicking in his words, "Coming along."
Nodding a response he couldn't see, Karen decided that was enough conversation for one day.
If air, if a gasp, could physically fall out of a person's mouth and tumble onto the floor, Karen's would have, and she wouldn't have even paid it a second glance. Her son was talking to her. He was asking a question that didn't pertain to 'Can I do this thing that will get me killed', and in Karen's world, this required a national holiday.
Before Karen could decide to proceed or not, Chip started muttering and mumbling under his breath in short, hostile bursts, slamming at his keys and glaring at the keyboard.
"Do you want me to look at it?" She really couldn't shut up today, could she?
Though all she could see was the back of his ocean hair and crumpled cap, the sense that her son was rolling his eyes clung to her ankles. "No, mom, I got it."
Half a second passed before he began cursing under his breath.
Karen bit her tongue.
Not the time. Give him independence. He's a grown boy now.
Judging by the number eleven that flew out of his mouth, Chip was mere seconds from chucking his computer into the wall.
"Ok, let me see it." Karen gave him no time to protest. Her heels clicked and clacked as she walked across the floor to where he sat, bent over him, and looked at the blinding, if not slightly dusty, screen. Vivid green numbers and words, all in classic coding font, scrolled past her eyes as she ran through the program. It only took her a moment to find the bug, and she had it erased in a few seconds. Her mind screeched its regrets the whole time.
"Gee, thanks, mom," Chip sneered as she pulled away. "I'll make sure to call you when I can't get my own dinner, too."
"I made you dinner last night because you were too lazy to go to the fridge!"
Don't say anything. Just walk away.
For once, for once in her life, Karen listened to the voice inside her head, and it wept tears of joy over that fact.
Instead, Karen merely went to her computer, intent on finding the bug in her own program. The confidence in having fixed her son's issue, no matter his gratitude, left some unwanted pride in her chest.
The first scroll through looked exactly as it had when she had left it, fuming.
So did the second.
And the third…
Soon, Karen found herself muttering a whole slew of the thirteen (she had been on a boat once, and only once) bad words.
"Yes?" Karen's reply was muffled with her head into the table.
"Can I look?"
Never had she felt closer in genetics to her son than when he stood up before she could even reply, kneeled next to her table, and typed furiously away at her program, all while she watched on dumbly. Her glasses slipped down her nose with each twitch of a smile on her son's lips. This was exactly what she had done.
"There. I learned it on the internet, it's a new trick." Passing the computer back to his mother, Chip shrugged and pulled out his phone. "You would have figured it out eventually, but this saves a ton of time."
Either he had no interest in her gratitude, or didn't expect it, and Chip began walking towards his bedroom, eyes glued to his phone.
Karen stared at the computer screen. The program ran smoothly right before her eyes.
Something dropped into her stomach. Pride? Humility? Satisfaction?
"GOOD AFTERNOON, PLANKTONS!"
Karen wondered sometimes if SpongeBob knew what a doorbell was.
A man, or boy, or somewhere in between, leapt with unusual grace into the restaurant, spreading a face-splitting grin in his wake. Was he thirty? Sixteen? Five? No one really knew, and if anyone bothered to ask, somehow, they never got an answer. The freckles said just a boy, the home muttered a teenager living the dream, but his work and very-temporary driver's licenses said adult. Karen assumed he was all three and then some.
"Morning, SpongeBob." Karen offered a small wave as she placed her coffee on the table. "You here for Spot?"
"Yup!" SpongeBob had already grabbed the leash and hooked it on Spot, who had begun barking incessantly since his walked arrived. "Gary's waiting outside, is it ok if we take the long way around? I want Spot to see this ice cream place across town!"
Smiling as little as she would allow herself around the guy who was supposed to be her enemy, Karen nodded. "Whatever you want, and thanks again, SpongeBob. Chip would say hi, but he's taking a post-lunch nap that all the kids seem to like these days."
"Ha, let him enjoy childhood, it goes quick!" SpongeBob's phone beeped in his pocket, and he fished it out before erupting in a fit of giggles. "KAREN KAREN KAREN! I got the new high score, I've gotta show Mr. Krabs!"
SpongeBob's smile could have split his face, but he paused momentarily, and the room suffered for it, like a light had gone out. He faltered, and his hands fell by his side as he looked up at Karen with watering, planetary eyes. "Uhm, is Plankton ok? I wasn't there, but I heard Mr. Krabs threw him out pretty hard today."
Leave it to Mr. Krabs' right-hand man to have bouts of sympathy for her husband. Taking another sip of her coffee and savoring the foreign flavor, Karen shook her head, stood up, and ruffled SpongeBob's curled hair. "Don't worry about my husband, he'll survive."
This seemed to satisfy him for the time being, and SpongeBob's trademark grin broke out on his face once more. "That's great! I'll see you later, Karen, tell Chip and Plankton I said hi!"
With a gentle tug on the leash, SpongeBob led Spot out the beaten, bullied, swinging doors, where she could already hear Gary meowing for his owner.
He could do this.
It was very simple: Open the door, slip out, let the door shut without a sound, and make a mad dash for the mall. The door swung on hinges, and he had just oiled them yesterday, bending them into silent submission. Nothing was going to ruin this.
Chip turned left. His mother was in the bedroom, doing who-cared-what, his father was still locked up doing…again, who-cared-what. Spot was out with SpongeBob. Everything was clear as he stepped with a lion's paws silence over to the door, pressed his hand to the metal door, nearly burning his palm against the scaling heat, and pushed it forward. A chattering, evening light threw itself at him like an eager friend, casting an orange hue in the bland restaurant, and just as his foot passed through…
"Where are you going?"
His mother's words didn't sound accusatory, or even harsh. Curious? Maybe, but that seemed unlikely.
"Uh…" Turning around, Chip stuffed his hand in his too-big jacket, fingering his phone and playing with the worn case. "Out."
Something in his mother's jade eyes didn't seem right. She was supposed to yell at him, tell him he should have asked first, and request phone numbers, addresses, and enough personal information to beat the FBI in a trivia contest until he decided to stay home. Her complacent, calm expression, almost of understanding, sent a marble down his throat he didn't enjoy. Maybe she was doing it on purpose.
Pausing and looking her son over, Karen shrugged her shoulders and went to her computer. "Alright, but don't stay out too long."
A grin cracked his face, wide enough to lift his picture-frame glasses. "Thanks, mom!"
He had one foot out the door when his mother's voice trickled through the air again.
A senseless concoction of dread and anxiety coated his stomach, and Chip turned to face his fate, who beckoned him over, dug though her purse, and handed him thirty dollars. He was sure his jaw hitting the floor would have hurt more than it did.
He couldn't read the smile on his mother's face. "You'll need money at the mall, food isn't free like it is here. And you can tell Pearl you earned it on your own."
"How did you–"
That same grin, knowing and cunning, yet soft and understanding, glinted over the sunrays still let in through the door window. "Call it a mother's intuition."
The rambling began quicker than he could stop it. "It's not like I really like her, but we met that one day at the zoo and she was just sort of nice and it was funny to see dad and Krabs fight and we played some pranks and I just–"
"Your father doesn't need to know. Not yet, anyway." A small, chirping tone came from her computer, and Karen's focus was momentarily diverted. "Ok, you run along, but don't stay out too late."
Karen grinned to herself as Chip stuttered out a thank you, looked over the money in his hand, and flew out the doors. The boy would be an adult soon enough, and he wouldn't be able to break the rules of life forever. For now, she would let him be a boy in a teenager's body.
"KAREN?" The first word from her husband since he had locked himself in.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Karen replied, "Yes?"
"Is he going to see Pearl again?"
"You were young once too, hon."
Sometimes, in the summer, Karen felt like a mother of a new child again. Chip, after a long and unnecessary fight, had retired to bed, Spot made a mess of the house with no regards to how it would take her an hour to clean it, and her husband was, well, her husband, in another room. This same situation could have taken place when Chip was a baby again, when he most complicated toy he played with was a calculator.
The delicate, warm thought, new and old in many ways, brought a fluttering feeling to her chest that carried the question of how tired she really was, and considering she always acted more courageous when in a good mood, Karen came up to the door to their work room. The barrier, the only thing separating Karen and her husband, had stood proud and stubborn for hours now, from the midday sunlight to splatters of evening sunrise, concluding now, when she broke a never-ending shadow to knock.
"Sheldon?" Gently rapping at the metal door with the back of her loose fist, Karen called in, softly at first, for her husband. "Plan to come out any time soon?"
The sound of fusing metal, sharp and drawn-out, replied, 'probably not'
That wasn't going to fly.
"Sheldon," she began again, realization dawning that she used the same voice on Plankton that she had on Chip when he was a boy…and maybe still today. Her knock this time was stronger, leaving a slight tint of rose on her knuckles, and she could just hear her husband groan. At the sound, her hand found the handle and twisted like she planned on choking the life out of it, only to get a familiar shock up her arm when it refused to budge. "Ok, come on, let me in!"
"No." Well, he was talking. That was a start, right?
It wouldn't be that difficult to open the door, actually. A laser gun, a glass cutter, or the back entrance would all work, but it would be nice to know that her husband would still let her in a room without force and/or bribery.
"I'm going to count to three…"
"I'm not Chip, Karen."
"This is demeaning!"
Before Karen had a chance to reach the end of her fuse, or figure out what she would do if he didn't obey, Plankton swung the door open, sending scratch marks in the well-worn dents in the ground, and stared at her, not with anger or annoyance, but with something like weary, biting anxiety. He opened his mouth to greet her, probably rudely, but she beat him to it, "Well, it's great to see you're still alive."
Grunting, and gaining back some of his animosity, Plankton stepped aside, and yanked the beaten goggles off his definitely-not dyed hair, which took on an especially interesting tint in evening; Karen had once told him it reminded her of a soda bottle green, perhaps from a gas station. He still wasn't sure if that was a compliment or insult.
Silence creeped with eight long, delicate but invincible legs into the room. It strangely reminded Karen of when they had first been married, and they would fight, how their make-ups usually began with enough silence to shut up a city crowd. She titled to look at her husband and winced at the pumping hostility in his eyes, the way he refused to acknowledge her presence, and the red rushing through his veins. He collapsed into the chair before his desk, letting his elbows rest on a book, Astronomy for the New Ages. Her eyes widened when she spotted that he was at the way end of the book.
Sometimes, it was hard not to take it personally when he cringed at her touch, but Karen kept her hand firmly on his shoulder.
Gathering up the sticks and stone of his wits, Plankton shrugged her off, grabbed a pencil off the desk, and snapped it clean in half. Karen hardly flinched.
The knowledge that her voice ad to remain quiet enough to coax a kitten roamed in her mind, and Karen barely whispered, "Have you been reading that thing all day?"
His eye alone lied, but the curse he muttered under his tongue told her the truth.
A little closer to the heart, Karen kneeled by his side, ignoring the freezing snow of the concrete floor. This was nothing new. She knew that. "I don't think studying the moon's rotation will help you steal the formula, hon."
Karen took in a breath. Her stomach pinched against her back in worry.
Sometimes, she really believed he could read her thoughts, because just as she shifted to stand up and leave him alone, Plankton took her hand in his, just hardly letting their fingers brush. Her spiked shoulders dropped. Better.
The question had, did, and always would, hold more than a wondering about his health, and he knew that better than anyone. She wanted to know why he had to lock himself in this room. Why he was studying like a mad college student with finals. Why he was like this. She probably regretted their marriage ever day of her life, and asking if he was alright was just her cute way of feigning interest. Plankton bit back a scoff. It was a pitiable attempt.
Tearing his hand away from hers, Plankton stared ahead at the blank wall, save for a splatter of blue paint from Chip's youth. "I'm fine, wife."
"You don't sound fine." She always said that.
"I am." He always said that.
As thoughts she would never know and had little to raging desire to learn swirled and beat in Plankton's mind, Karen rested her elbows on his leg, content to play with the messy, drooping tie, half-covered in chemicals she either didn't know or didn't feel like pronouncing. A smile crept up on her face, and she murmured, glass shards hanging by threads above their heads, "You'll get it someday. I promise."
Plankton lifted his arm and rubbed away at his face, harshly, and she clutched his wrist before he could scrub away his eyepatch. "And if I don't?"
Too little sarcasm coated her words as Karen replied, "Well, then I'll just have to divorce you and go marry Krabs."
"Well geez, Karen, you're a big help."
Chuckling, Karen stood up, and motioned for him to open his arms. HE stared at her with the eyes of a child, and she continued to wait expectantly until he did it. Quietly, she sat on his lap, and though he tensed again, his arms curling around her middle relaxed them both to a point where she could feel the steady beat of his breathing.
"Now it's worse," he murmured, forehead against her arm. It spilled out, like it always did. She probably hated when he did this, when he poured out his problems at the end of every day like she was a middle-school diary, but it was her own fault. "I want to do it for Chip, so he'll be proud, so I'm not a complete failure in my wife and son's eyes. Spot probably thinks I'm the dog of the house."
Not that she had meant to, but Karen burst out laughing.
"I-I'm sorry, I couldn't help it!" Plankton glared on at her, and she stifled her laughter until she was only smiling. "We all love you, and we're very proud of you."
"For what?" He nearly spits the words, and she draped her arms around his neck, if only because she felt him tense up.
Pressing a warm kiss to his forehead, Karen replied, "Everything."
Plankton huffed. It was a good answer, he would give her that. Safe, easy, and heartwarming. Only a fool would accept it.
A smile, not none of concern, obligation, or patience, but of contentment stole across Karen's countenance. "Good. Are you coming to bed?"
Pausing for a moment, if only to hold his wife for a moment longer, Plankton nodded, a restful sigh breathing over his wife's form. "Sure."
Karen stood up, brushing off her dress for no reason that her husband could see, and reached her hands out. He took them with some hesitation, and she grinned. "Remember, Spot has the vet tomorrow, and considering all I've done for you today, I think you should take him."
Groaning, Plankton wrapped his arms tightly around his wife's waist. "Come on, do I have to? I hate going there, I feel like they're always trying to sell me something I don't need."
"Like you when we were dating?"
The comment, innocent in nature and deviously cruel in Karen's well-meaning smile, prompted Plankton to hold her a bit tighter, float her just above the ground, and spark a grin on his face he knew that she loved. Her laughter echoed like rich fire in the empty room, filing out the ajar door and into the main dining area.
"You gonna take that back?"
She had no protest as he lowered her once more, crashing his lips against hers and letting her hands prop up against his shoulders. He felt her smile in the kiss, and though he would be made fun of endlessly for it, he smiled back.
Things were good in the Plankton household.
A little evil, very crazy, but good.
Oh, and lemon-scented.